The Burden of Secrets

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From the APA’s Clinician Research Digest:

A study from the Journal of Experimental Psychology in 2016 explored the effects of withholding information from family and friends in everyday life.

Three studies with 3,000 participants explored the burdensomeness of secrets and conditions in which burdensomeness impacted judgment.  Results suggest that participants who were preoccupied with carrying a secret experienced laboratory tasks as more challenging than those who were not so preoccupied.  Keeping a secret also led to more trouble making judgment calls on a variety of tasks.   The seriousness or gravity also impacted the degree of impairment.

“As a clinician it is important to be aware that by being preoccupied with a secret, clients are devoting finite resources to that preoccupation, leaving fewer resources for other goals, and making achieving those goals seem more daunting.  By helping the client feel forgiven, supported and understood, practitioners can help to lessen burden-based outcomes.”

Forgiveness needs to come, I believe, from the person or people they love and the people they have been deceiving.  This happens most easily in the nonjudgmental setting of the therapist’s office.

So often in my office individuals feel pain at the anguish they’ve caused, but also huge relief that the hiding and pretending is over.  I thought this was a fascinating study.

Categories: InfidelityMarriage


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